Fiona Herring
Fiona Herring Travel Specialist
"I've been going to Africa for almost 20 years now but Madagascar is unlike anything else I've experienced - the wildlife, countryside and towns were all fascinating. Go if you can as you wont regret it!"

Isalo National Park Reviews

'Dear Derek

We chose Madagascar as a joint destination with ourselves and the Keens and it was Chrissy who did the research on which might be the best travel company to use. She found Rainbow Tours, and in fact they used the company some years ago for a trip in Africa.  To our minds her choice has been excellent and we finish the trip with a high regard for the company.  

All the arrangements have worked wonderfully well.  We have been very pleased indeed with our guides and drivers and the hotel accommodation has been right on the button with one exception.   More specific comments are below.  We have rated each hotel out of 10 and allocated the rating recognising the type of hotel we were in (e.g. Setam Lodge and Relais de la Reine are in different categories and marked accordingly)

Arrival and first night: The flight from Paris was fine and we were safely greeted by Vola and Mamy on arrival and installed with no trouble at the Relais des Plateaux - the ideal close to airport location. It provided exactly the service that was needed.  8/10

Day one and Couleur Cafe.  This is an excellent choice of hotel. Charming style and ambience, beautiful well maintained gardens and a high standard of service from the staff.  The decor was wonderfully amusing and the whole style of the place suited all four of us admirably.  We got our first taste of Ti Punch here and continued with them for a good part of the trip.  10/10

Days 2 - 4 Setam Lodge. The drive from Antananarivo through Antsirabe to Setam provided us with the most wonderful scenery despite the distressing poverty which is such a feature of Malagasy life. We were struck by people's industriousness as they went about the business of keeping body and soul together and by the smiles and friendliness we encountered.
Setam Lodge was good forest accommodation although the food was pretty unexciting. We suspect that it was probably the best available anywhere in the area, so no complaints from us. And they managed to put a comet moth just outside the dining room for us to admire and wonder at!  8/10


We enjoyed our first proper rainforest walks and were rewarded with some good lemur sightings.  The second of the two days was particularly enjoyable as there were very few other people in our area of the forest and so we were not fighting for viewing vantage points.  Chantal, the local guide, and her spotter did a great job of finding us some wonderful sights including a beautiful painted frog and the giraffe "bug". It was fascinating to observe how they listened and watched in order to show us the range of forest wildlife.

Day 5    Anja Park and Varangue de Betsileo.  Needless to say the ring tail lemurs of Anja Parc  stole our hearts, with lots of "Ooohs' and "Aaaahs" as they leapt around us.  With respect to the accommodation here we suspect you are in a bit of a bind with little else available within easy driving distance.  

To be honest while the location was very attractive and the rooms spacious and clean, our hosts were clearly doing everything on the cheap.    The only bedroom chairs masquerading as bedside tables, no water glasses (or water for that matter) and a measly bit of soap in the bathroom, two wire hangers, no curtains on the glass paned doors so that to have any privacy it was necessary to close the door and window shutters, leaving the room in the dark. In response to  the question "do you have a hairdryer?",  our hostess said that as she had short hair she did not see the need for one!  Dinner was a poor affair and the only wine available virtually undrinkable.  The final straw was that they charged for water at breakfast and left the offer of eggs until the last minute when we were rising from the table. We turned them down politely.

Recognising that there is probably not a lot of choice as to hotels, we wonder if Rainbow Tours were to have a discussion with them they might up their game.   Even if they were to charge 10 euros more a night that would be a reasonable trade off to get some of the amenities which ought to be standard. Rating 3/10


Days 6 - 10  Relais de la Reine.  Well,  what a wonderful contrast! A beautiful hotel, the most glorious gardens, charming staff, great food, Ti Punches some of the best.  The only thing to spoil it all was the news that Trump had won!!  Rating 10/10
Here too our walks were splendid and the Black Pool that we found at the top of the ravine was paradise. A great stay.   And then on to the Zombitse Transition Forest which too was wonderful.  The sifakas performed magnificently for us.  The Arboretum visit which followed was also very interesting and much enjoyed especially by the Keens who are much more plantsmen than we are.  

The overnight stop in Tulear was fine (Rating 8/10) and we were very sorry to say farewell to Vola and Mamy (sp?). They were a splendid team and really took trouble to make sure that we were well looked after.  Mamy drove superbly and at no time did we have the slightest sense that he was not in full control of our safety. It was also touching to see that he quite clearly looked out for Vola as well!  She demonstrated liveliness, humour, a strong sense of responsibility for our well-being and good knowledge in responding to our questions. In particular she was very good in controlling things on the occasions that we stopped and left the car, making sure the begging children did not crowd us and that each got his fair share of sweets or bread.  

Days 11 - 14 Vakhona Lodge After the somewhat hair-raising drive from Tana to Vakhona (one of us felt really quite uncomfortable with this) we actually had the most magnificent stay here. Our new guide Stephan and driver Nyna were again charming and the local guide we had here (Sacha?) was very knowledgeable indeed. We really enjoyed him and his little twists of gentle humour. They went to a great deal of trouble to make sure we were not in crowded spots and yet still managed to get some wonderful lemur, indri and bird sightings for us.  

The lodge itself was very well appointed, beautifully set in the forest, and the food was good - and of course the Ti Punches!  We left with great reluctance, but at least we had the up close and personal experience of the lemurs just before we left!  Rating 9/10

So finally on to the last week at the Ravintsara.  Once more a really wonderful hotel, charming staff whose only wish is to make sure we had a fully relaxed and comfortable stay.  The massage and spa treatments were of excellent quality, food was good and varied and the view from our bungalow over the channel was peaceful.  The gardens were absolutely beautiful. A perfect end to our stay  so we go back to London and France with great reluctance but feeling well set up for the winter.  Rating 10/10

Thank you for your help in arranging this trip for us.  We will remember it with pleasure for many years to come.

If you would like to contact us regarding any of these comments please don't hesitate to do so.  In the meantime our very good wishes to you

Hilary and Kazia' (part of Keen party)

 

Ms Smith and Ms Kantor (Keen party)
December 6, 2016

'Hi Derek,

A short email just to say how delighted we were with our whole trip and how enjoyable Mickael and Lionel have made it. 

This country is mindblowing. Your planning of our trip has been amazing. We've loved everybit of it and couldn't have dreamt of a better honeymoon. 

Thank you to everyone at Rainbow Tours,  and you.

Clemence and Gabriel'.

Mr and Mrs Devaux
November 24, 2016

'Excellent holiday.  We had out own 4x4, guide and driver and all were excellent. There is mention in this form of car and guide but no mention of driver: our lives were in his hands for 10 days and he was excellent, both in driving, handling our luggage, always opening the doors for us. Drivers are an integral and important part of all holidays; please give them recognition. The holiday was excellent in all respects. The changes we made to the advertised tour because of our ages (79 and 70) worked out very well. Would recommend your company to anyone - and we saw loads of lemurs!!!'

 

 

Mr and Mrs Linwood
November 1, 2016

'Jessica was absolutely excellent. She always made sure everyone got the most out of the trip, according to their abilities. Setam Lodge had lovely food - the best on the trip! Another day in the park (Ranomafana) would have been good'. 

Mr and Mrs Brooks
October 26, 2016

Hi Derek

Some feedback for you....

First of all, another fabulous trip for so many different reasons....

The flight out - what a lovely surprise to travel Premium Economy, what a difference that made, not just in the comfort and service aspects but ultimately getting through Tana airport in 30 minutes rather than over 2 hours - thank you so much.

The Relais des Plateau is such a refreshing first and last stop with no worries about getting to and from the airport and so comfortable.

All accommodation was great - hard to choose a favourite, very good choices.

To our delight plenty of lemurs and birds and absolutely fascinating travelling through such varied landscapes, villages and townships. Thought provoking to compare their world to ours, humbling to see how they manage their lives, always with a smile on their face. It has left us with much to think about.

The itinerary was great and the whole trip went very smoothly. we are always singing your praises to our friends and family and I am sure we will have other trips with Rainbow Tours.

So once again, thank you very much for a great experience.

Chris & June

 

 

 

Ms Elgar and Ms Lawrence
October 24, 2016

'Gersica was superb and success of the holiday was all down to her. She is a treasure! Air Madagascar were for once very reliable. The pace of the tour and some distances travelled seemed unrelenting towards the end but we would not have missed any of it!.

We loved Les Dunes (Ifaty). Chilled out in bungalow overlooking beach. The Malagasy traditional meal at Setam Lodge was the food highlight of the tour. 

Gersica could not have been better organised, more considerate or more attentive. She is one of the best tour leaders we have experienced in over 30 years of travel on small group holidays'. 

Mr and Mrs Johnson
October 20, 2016

'We loved the country and the people. This has been a fantastic trip. Our itinerary couldn't have been better. I really liked the pacing. Mora mora......  I wish that we could help this country protect their precious natural resources and improve the quality of life for the people. There is so much potential here.

Thank you again for making this a trip of a lifetime.

All my best,

LP'

Ms Parnell and Mr Blaise
October 18, 2016

'Overall satisfaction: Excellent. Relais des Plateaux is a very good hotel.

Gite d'Ampijoroa (Ankarafantsika National Park) has excellent location, good service, food and facilities; average comfort.
(Basic)

Royal Palissandre Hotel & Spa excellent food and service. Too posh for us.

Vakona Forest Lodge: excellent location, meals and facilities. Lovely setting but felt a bit damp and cold.

Thermal Hotel Ranomafana: excellent comfort, good service, location and meals. Beautiful hotel but electricity kept running out.

La Varangue de Betsileo: excellent in all respects. Very nice people, looked after us very well.

Relais la Reine: Very nice, lovely area.

La Mira: excellent in all respects. Very nice and relaxing.

The guides were excellent especially Bel-Aviv and his driver Doudou, who were with us for most of the trip. All were very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly'.

Mr and Mrs Smeaton
October 13, 2016

'We had a wonderful holiday - thank you. Our guide Gersica was fantastic - one of the best we have ever had and we have been travelling for years! She went out of her way to ensure each individual's needs were met and is so knowledgeable, too'. 

Ms Pearson & Ms Chippendale
October 12, 2016

'We had a great holiday - your itinerary was super - thanks!.Highlights: Relais de la Reine Hotel + Isalo National Park. Sheer variety of terrain and habitats. Quality of the guides, in particular Djato and the driver Barry. Exceptional passion and dedication. Local guides at Andasibe-Mantadia, Isalo and the Ifaty Spiny Forest'

Mr and Mrs Lacey
October 6, 2016

'We had such an amazing time in Madagascar. We were in awe of the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife. We found the people to be friendly and welcoming.

Maison Gallieni: we had a wonderful first night here. Lovely dinner.

Couleur Cafe: excellent comfort, service, location and facilites. The evening meal was goog, breakfast buffet was not as good.

Setam Lodge: Service, location, meals and faciliities excellent. Comfortable rooms, could do with an update/ renovation but pleased that they were dry and not damp. It was also cold in Ranomafana and they had a heater which was useful.

Relais la Reine d'Isalo: It was a special hotel set in a beautiful landscape. The lady owner of the hotel was very friendly and appreciative.

Anakao Ocean Lodge: surpassed our expectations. Beautiful lodge on a very secluded beach. Wonderful meals created from whatever fish/seafood was caught fresh each day - we really liked this ethos especially as it helps the local fishermen in the nearby village. The speedboat transfers there/back added to the experience.

Vakona Forest Lodge: main building was lovely. A great setting for breakfast and dinner. It was a disappointment that the rooms were not of the same stanard and that the staff could not understand why why we were not happy with a damp room.

We really appeciated Derek getting in touch with us and our guide Njiva when we were having difficulties with or internal flights and for checking that we were OK and that we were still happy with the service from our guide. We were also grateful to Njiva fror staying in Tulear another night and making sure we were on the flight back to Antananarivo the next day. He was wonderful at the airport and and organised everything for us there so that we did not have to worry. We could not have asked for better service from our guide at the airport. We feel that we may not have made it onto the flight from Tulear if it were not for him! '

 

 

 
Mr and Mrs Cunningham
October 3, 2016

'Njiva was a fantastic guide - thoroughly recommend him. Driver, Dodo, was also very good. Overall holiday satisfaction (Classic Madagascar overland: the RN7 route): excellent. 

Vakona Forest Lodge is a lovely place but they wanted us to leave the bar/seating area by around 9pm. 

Setam Lodge: good in all respects. Location excellent.

La Varangue de Betsileo: Service and comfort: excellent. Location, meals and facilities all good. 

Relais la Reine d'Isalo: excellent.

Moringa Hotel: good in all respects; excellent meals.

Princesse Bora Lodge: Comfort, meals and facilities good; service and location excellent.'

 

Ms Godfrey and Mr Naylor
January 25, 2016

'We really enjoyed the trip.  Madagascar certainly lived up to expectations, we saw most everything we wanted to (and in many cases, much more).  I would say we were very well looked after.  Hard to pick a highlight, but I might go with Marojejy.  Thanks for a great experience!'

Dr and Mrs Nunnally
January 4, 2016

'Gersica was very helpful (on the 15 October 2015 Madagascar Discovery Tour) and gave everybody lots of attention. All tours were well organised and guided by her. Overall holiday satisfaction: Excellent. Great experience to see all these animals. Excellent accommodation, delicuous food and perfectly guided.

Eulophiella Lodge is beautifully lotedwit all he plants and flowers.

Berenty Lodge: excellent in all respects. Nice to see all these animals up close.

Les Dunes d'Ifaty: well located at the coast. Beautiful room and excellent service. Nice pool.

Isalo Rock Lodge: beautiful bungalows well located in the area.

The tour was great. We enjoyed every day. Every day and every walk was really special. Thanks (to) Gersica we got a perfect impression and a good experience of Madagascar'.

Mr and Mrs Mears
December 9, 2015

'The trip was great, an adventure! We saw all of the wildlife that we expected to see and enjoyed watching the lemurs and indri up close. The walk to Camp 1 was harder than I thought because we had to do it in the dark, but it was unavoidable due to Air Madagascar. We knew what we wanteed to see was in some of the remote places and access was going to take time and be difficult. Not sure some of the group anticipated this so much, as they were visiting Madagascar for the first time. Harry and Marc were fantastic. I can't praise them enough. They were efficient and kind and went the extra mile always'.

Mr and Mrs Taplin
December 7, 2015

'Overall holiday satisfaction: Excellent.  Local guides and representatives: Excellent, particularly Harry and Mark. This holiday was really made by Harry. We were really impressed by his knowledge of different languages, (including Latin!) and of the wildlilfe, not to mention the ease at which he sorted out different problems. Camp Mantella (Marojejy): 'comfort, service, location and meals good. Facilities unsatisfactory'. Camp Marojejia: 'Everything first class: comfort, service, location and meals excellent. Facilities: unsatisfactory'. Relais la Reine d'Isalo: Excellent in all respects. Anakao Ocean Lodge: good location, meals and faciltiies. Could do with more outdoor shaded areas. Andasibe Hotel excellent in all respects; comfort good'.

Mr and Mrs Cowen
December 7, 2015

'The overall organisation from both Rainbow Tours and Za Tours was really excellent - in particular we would like to commend Harry Rakotosalama on his boundless enthusiasm, organisational ability and patience (a lot needed in looking after our party!).

It was also a real pleasure travelling Madagascar with Daniel, learning not just about the wildlife, but also additionally all about the different issues facing Madagascar and the Malagasy people.

Finally, a big 'thank you' to you Derek, for steerin the tour from home base in London. Thank you once again to Rainbow Tours for this really magnificent holiday'  

Mr and Mrs Ingleby
December 1, 2015

'Our guide Gersica was excellent throughout. (15 October 2015 Rainbow Tours Small Group Madagascar Wildlife & Discovery Tour) She was efficient, very knowledgeable, and was particularly helpful in overcoming individual difficulties whether needing to re-arrange accommodation, transport etc or medical needs. Without her energy and constant attention to detail, the holiday would not have gone as well as it did. Gersica was an excellent guide who went the extra mile to make the trip enjoyable for everyone'
 

Mr and Mrs Yates
November 23, 2015

'Wonderful holiday in fantastic country. Most hotels/lodges far better than expected and food very good. Accommodation everywhere was clean and comfortable and could not fault service provided throughout the trip.

Gersica, our main guide throughout the trp was excellent. Extremely knowledgeable, very good English and managed the group efficiently. There were a few problems with people feeling unwell but Gersica was extremely helpful and supportive. She accommodated any requests made by individuals and was attentive to our needs as a group at all times. I was particularly impressed by how well organised Gersica wasdujrin transfers at airports and her efficency in checking in bags and processing documentation. Could not have asked for a more experienced and professional tour leader. She is an excellent representative for Rainbow Tours'   (15 October 2015 Madagascar Small Group Wildlife Discovery Small Group Tour).

Ms McBrien
November 9, 2015

'Overall holiday satisfaction: Excellent.  (26 September 2015 Madagascar Wildlife Small Group set departure).  Vegetarian food was excellent everywhere. This is partly due to Gersica's diligence in ringing ahead to each hotel. Thanks again for a most memorable trip'

 

Mr Jackson and Mr Bates
October 29, 2015

'I have just returned from your (26 September 2015 Small Group Wildlife/Discovery) tour to Madagascar and I am writing to express my satisfaction with how the tour was organised and run.... I cannot speak too highly of Gersica for the care and enthusiasm she manifested. She also has a fantastic knowledge of the area and animals together with telescopic vision!!'

David Cooper
October 23, 2015

"Our impression is very positive. We hit most target species of bird and saw plenty of lemurs and a few frogs and snakes and even a swimming bat! Literally, a mass of photos. Perhaps the biggest shock is the loss of local habitat to the rapidly growing population. An enormous amount of work for the government to do on conservation before it is too late. The country would lose a vital incentive for tourism and much-needed income. It is worthy to note that the overall adventure was successful and we thank you for drawing up the itinerary. One is very much dependent on a good guide in Madagascar. There is no doubt that our guides Lala and Fen, 'knew their stuff'. Above all they were good company. Its a nice touch despite the early flight departure times, the guides waited until we cleared departures. They have been well selected. The best local guide was the last guide called Stephan who knew Ranomafana like the back of his hand. He explained that he helped Ian Sinclair with the habitat detail for the current bird guide on Madagascar and its surrounding islands. So, quite an adventure for all of us. Many thanks."

Cowlrick Birding Party
October 12, 2015

Dear Derek

More than six weeks later but we still wanted to let you know we had a beautiful birding tour through Madagascar. Of course it was not the best time of the year (August) but I estimate we still saw 80%+ of the endemic birds we could have expected to see in Sep/Nov. The people from Za Tours were wonderful; (the guide) Mia was very nice, interesting and cheerful guy. We had a great holiday.

Regards, Edial & Fransje, Amsterdam

Mr Dekker and Ms Haakman
September 28, 2015

'Thanks for a really great holiday. (20 August 2015 Small Group Wildlife Discovery Tour). We covered a lot of ground but saw just a glimpse of the diversity that is Madagascar. The coach driver (for most of our time) was really outstanding with his concentration and sympathetic driving. But the Silver Challenge Cup must go to Gersica, whose knowledge, patience, sensitivity, sense of humour and capacity for hard work knows no bounds. She is tops!'

Mr and Mrs West
September 23, 2015

Wow – what a view! Sadly, I couldn’t bring myself to use the enormous bath – it would have wasted too much water! Amazing food

S Melville
September 13, 2013

The Food at Ishalo Lodge was quite amazing the Michelin star type! Rooms are incredible. 

Malcomson
November 20, 2011
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